As Rumors Swirl, Professors Speak Up in Support of Powers

As Rumors Swirl, Professors Speak Up in Support of Powers

Ahead of a potentially tense meeting of the UT System Board of Regents this morning, UT-Austin faculty members are voicing their support for president Bill Powers.

Members of the executive committee of UT’s Faculty Council began circulating a statement Wednesday morning, asking faculty members to sign on. In it, faculty members state in no uncertain terms their support of Bill Powers, the UT-Austin president who’s been in the headlines not only for his leadership of the American Association of Universities (AAU) and of UT, but for the tensions between Powers and members of the UT System Board of Regents, which oversees the 15-institution University of Texas System.

The statement praises Powers’ support of teaching and research under what the group dubs “extraordinarily difficult circumstances,” and includes references to the new Dell Medical School, the Texas legislature’s vocal support for Powers, and his chairmanship of the AAU, an elite group of more than 60 research-minded universities in the U.S. and Canada.

Powers’ circumstances may get even more difficult this week, if rumors are to be believed, as regents meet in Austin. Among other topics, the board is scheduled to consider recommendations from Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa concerning Powers’ employment Thursday. Those recommendations have not been made public, but some have speculated that regents may be looking to remove Powers or set a timeline for Powers to transition from leadership of the state flagship.

Gossip has flourished over the last two years that certain regents aim to discredit and ultimately oust Powers in an attempt to reform the way UT is run. Regent Wallace Hall has become the central player in the ongoing saga, and is now being investigated by members of the legislature for allegations of mishandling student data, misrepresenting himself on his application to be a regent, and overstepping the bounds of his role as defined by statute, best practices, and the Texas Constitution. Hall has countered that unnamed legislators have used their influence to affect the admissions process at UT.

The Faculty Council is an elected body which serves to support and in many cases represent the opinions of faculty to the administration and general public. Some council members previously butted heads with the Powers administration, voicing concerns about the University’s shared services plan, which aims to reduce administrative clutter and save more than $400 million, and which opponents including labor organizers say will cost jobs and disproportionately affect women and minorities on campus. A resolution opposing the plan has been introduced in the council.

Read the statement in full below:

On behalf of the General Faculty of UT Austin, the Faculty Council Executive Committee unanimously reiterates its strong support for the presidency of William Powers. Under extraordinarily difficult circumstances he has greatly enhanced the quality and stature of the institution’s undergraduate education, its graduate programs, its research mission, its commitment to medical education and care, and its service to the community and to higher education generally. This year alone he has been honored by his alma mater, the Texas Legislature, and the prestigious American Association of Universities, which he now serves as President. As his colleagues, we are proud to acknowledge and honor his remarkable and distinguished achievements as we place our full support behind his continued presidency of The University of Texas at Austin.


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